Microsoft, Palm and RIM Offer Daylight-Saving Fix

By Michael Barbella — March 07, 2007

Two years ago, Congress extended daylight-saving time by one month as a way to save energy. More sunlight at the end of the day, lawmakers reasoned, could lead to the consumption of fewer fossil fuels. What Congress didn't anticipate was the havoc the extension would wreak upon mobile devices. "The extension of daylight-saving time is what is going to cause the problems here," says Bharat Suneja, Microsoft certified trainer, Exchange MVP and Principal Exchange Architect for email management vendor Zenprise.

Since the time change takes place three weeks earlier this year (as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005), computers and other time-sensitive electronic devices such as VCRs, clocks and digital organizers could be thrown out of whack if not updated. Mobile devices with time-sensitive calendars, email and business applications (such as smartphones and PDAs) could be subject to scheduling problems if they were programmed to adjust for daylight-saving time before the 2005 law was passed.

"Keep in mind we do spring ahead and fall back every year, we're just doing it three weeks earlier this year and one week later," Suneja notes. "It's the timing of the [whole] move."

The timing of this move has led some technology experts to label the daylight-saving shift a "mini Y2K," in reference to the scramble in 1999 to change old computer software so it could properly read the year 2000. Though its repercussions are nowhere near as serious as those posed by the Millennium Bug (which turned out to be all buzz and no sting), the time change shift nonetheless presents companies with problems that must be resolved in order for business to run smoothly.

"This is a minor problem compared to the big code changes required in the recent past for issues like Y2K or the Euro conversion," says Will Cappelli, research VP at Gartner. "However, significant business damage and liabilities could occur from applications performing their processing at the incorrect time if organizations do nothing."

Doing nothing could trigger a potential disruption of business, with clocks inside corporate computers and software systems failing to sync up. The disruption could impact various industries, including shipping (which has guarantees around timing), manufacturing, real estate and the legal profession (which has time-sensitive deadlines).

Companies such as Microsoft, Palm and RIM have come out with software patches to update their mobile devices and computers. Microsoft first raised awareness of the problems associated with the time-change shift when it created a Web site for customers last year ( www.microsoft.com/dst2007 ). In November, the company made Windows Updates available on its online, and last month it released an update for smartphones that run on the Windows Mobile OS. The smartphone update prevents the clocks and Microsoft Outlook calendar appointments from displaying incorrect times between March 11 and April 1 (the original date for daylight saving to begin), and between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 (the original date for standard time to resume).

Microsoft also has set up a Web site to address consumer and business questions: http://support.microsoft.com/gp/cp_dst .

Palm users can download software updates for their devices from a special site: www.palm.com/us/support/downloads/dst.html . Palm says users who do not download the software to their devices will be left with calendar events that will be off by one hour.

RIM BlackBerry devices also will not update their clocks automatically, causing them to show the incorrect time. Calendar features also will be affected, but customers can download software patches to fix the problems. The patches are available on the company's Web site: www.blackberry.com/DST2007/patch/index2.shtml .

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